Pot-smuggling comedy "We're the Millers" is mostly stems and seeds
LOS ANGELES - Like the very long road trip it portrays, "We're the Millers" offers the occasional comedic point of interest, but for the most part it's a long, black ribbon of boring.
By ending with outtakes that wind up being the funniest part of the film, "We're the Millers" basically confesses that its talented cast - led by Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn - would have been much better off untethered from the pedestrian screenplay.
It took four writers to labor over this unremarkable piece of work, and somehow not one of them could figure out a way to mine laughs from a tarantula biting a teenager's scrotum.
The premise shows promise: Small-time drug dealer David (Sudeikis) gets robbed of his cash and his stash after he and his nerdy neighbor Kenny (U.K. actor Will Poulter) try to come to the rescue of homeless teen Casey (Roberts).
David's druglord boss Brad (Ed Helms) may be a total nerd, but he's not amused over the money David owes him; he does, however, offer to let David off the hook if the dealer will become a smuggler and bring a "smidge and a half" of marijuana back to Denver over the Mexican border.
Figuring that white-bread families never attract the attention of the law, David recruits Kenny and Casey to pretend to be his kids, while hiring Rose (Aniston) - the stripper next door who hates him but needs the money - to throw on some capri pants and sensible shoes to pass as his wife, so the ersatz "Millers" can drive an RV packed with dope through customs with no one giving them a second look.
Naturally, nothing goes as planned, but almost none of the catastrophes the group encounters are particularly funny, whether it's a horny Mexican cop (Luis Guzmán) or a seemingly bland couple (Offerman and Hahn) with some secrets of their own.
The movie flaunts its R-rated-ness in a few moments of daring (an innocent bystander catches Rose and Casey giving virginal Kenny kissing lessons and assumes it's incest), but "We're the Millers" has its heart firmly in the Eisenhower-era nuclear family, with David, Rose, Casey and Kenny learning that they need each other and that playing house is stirring all their pangs for suburban domesticity.
Aniston gets a few moments of comic flair, switching gears from hard-bitten bar girl to you-betcha housewife in the blink of an eye, but her character exists in that bizarro movie world (previously seen in "The Internship" and "Rock of Ages," among many others) where all strippers wear bras throughout their routines.
Journeyman director Rawson Marshall Thurber ("Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh") shows no feel for timing, with scenes running well past their point of expiration and the movie as a whole lasting a seemingly endless 110 minutes. At a total of 15 respectable laughs, that's a sad average of one chuckle every seven or eight minutes.
If August is when the studios do a summer-clearance-sale purge of their least marketable product, do yourself a favor and leave "We're the Millers" on the rack.